Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Favorite Tech Advances



From The Top Ten Corner:

I remember thinking as the year 1984 approached how the world was nothing like George Orwell predicted. Similarly, I was really disappointed that there were no wrist TVs (Dick Tracy) or personal rocket packs (Batman) like we were promised! Where was this great technology? Recently I was listening to a diatribe on TV about the global economy and the curse that technology has brought to mankind. I knew there was little reason to give this rant much thought because to me it is self evident the progress technology has brought us. However, as I gave it more thought, I realized how many technological advancements have become completely taken for granted, banished to the background of our everyday life. I also found it amazing that in 1994, not so long ago, that Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble discussed the newfangled “internet” on the Today Show without any clue as to what the internet was. With that said, My favorite advances are:

The Internet - The 800 pound gorilla of tech advances, even if it is going to cause the downfall of mankind according to Hollywood. Since this blog only exists on the internet, the internet has made it possible for you to be underwhelmed by my rambling. Plane tickets? The internet. Train schedule? The internet. Job search? Need a book? Checking e-mail? Checking the weather? Need a recipe? Met score? Population of Bhutan? Location of Bhutan? What the hell is Bhutan? For me, all roads come from the internet. Countless bar arguments are ultimately solved the following morning when either I or my brother Joe gets to surf the net for the answer. It is hard to imagine life today without the internet.

TIVO/DVR - Most of the technologies on this list have had a more profound impact on humankind, but to us sports fans, this is the ultimate technology (and a great help to married couples everywhere). As a Notre Dame and Jet football fan, I often had to pick my poison as to which game would get sacrificed for some weekend marital task. With the advent of TIVO, I could safely tape any sporting event freeing up Saturdays (ND) or Sundays (NYJ) as needed. Fall weddings were no longer cursed! I could safely tape my game and watch it in peace at night. This is really just the tip of the iceberg! No longer would I have to scream at the TV when ESPin or whatever station involved failed to run a replay so that some “celebrity” could be shown in the crowd. I control my own replays now. Need to grab a beer or hit the head? No problem - the game will wait. Another big help to me was that TIVO ended my channel surfing days. There were many a night wasted when I would surf the entire spectrum of channels and have nothing but some odd 10 minute pieces of random programs watched to show for it. With TIVO I taped what I wanted to watch and I watched what I wanted to see.

HDTV - My good buddy Gary Patterson warned me not to watch a football game on HDTV unless I was prepared to fork over the loot to get one. I listened to his wise counsel. Eventually it was unavoidable and I watched a game on HDTV at a pub or a buddy’s house and what an experience! Football on TV would never be the same. This holds true for baseball and hoops and of course your favorite Sci-Fi movies.

The ATM - talk about freedom! As a kid, I remember I had to get to the bank before 3pm to deposit my paper route money. While banks started to offer Saturday morning hours, it was still a real nuisance to get cash in a world dominated by cash and checks. Then in 1984 I had my first ATM experience - what a world! Never a need to call it a night prematurely because we were out of cash!

The Cell/Smart Phone - I was definitely hesitant to take the plunge with a cell phone for fear it would be a trap. Many feared this same curse, but to me, the cell phone proved to be a great liberator. Not only could I call my wife to ask what food items I forgot her requesting, but heading out of the office for an early meeting was not a crucial step any longer because I was available 24-7 on the cell if anyone wanted me. Fortunately, my work rarely intrudes on my off hours. For those of you out there where work (or others) intrude, the cell phone may very well be a curse. Smart phones could have justified a separate entry on this list, but I see this is an extension of the cell phone. Still - what an extension! E-mails, texts, the internet, etc. That’s Dick Tracy stuff!

Google (search engines - Yahoo) - While you obviously can’t have Google without the internet, I was tempted to place Google higher on the list. It is still hard for me to fathom how Google provides such accurate suggestions to random searches instantaneously regardless of the subject matter. Adding to my amazement, Google seems to get what I want right no matter how badly I butcher the spelling in my request!

GPS Navigation - This is one advance that I didn’t remotely appreciate until I had it. I rented a car in another city, popped in the address, and I was off. Food or gas en route? No problem. The days of maps or paper directions were thankfully over. Liberation.

Electronic Banking/Finance (Direct Deposit/Instant Credit Purchases, etc) - An incredibly convenient time saver. Unfortunately, it helped me know exactly how much debt I have and how fast I (or more likely my wife) can increase that debt. Just swipe and your gas is paid for, ticket purchased, and sometimes hopefully bill paid.

Barcodes - I still hate waiting on line at stores, but the speed at checkout counters today has to be 2-3 times faster thanks to this little baby.

Facebook - Like Google, Facebook could warrant inclusion with the internet, but since Facebook is a such phenomenon I think it warrants its own place on the list. After all, who would have thought Egypt would fall thanks in part to Facebook?

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